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Ford China Chief Jason Luo resigned suddenly just five months after taking the job.

After a poor year in China last year, Ford Motor Co.’s 2018 isn’t getting off to a better start with the resignation of Jason Luo, chairman and CEO of Ford China. The resignation takes effect immediately.

Luo joined Ford just five months ago from Key Safety Systems, and was expected to help the automaker find sustainable growth in the country. Ford came to China late and has been playing catch up. After a strong year in 2016, Luo was expected to help turnaround a difficult 2017 and 2018.

“Jason made valuable contributions in accelerating our electric vehicle strategy, exploring opportunities to provide future smart mobility solutions for customers in China, and identifying ways to become more operationally fit,” said Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president and president, Ford Asia Pacific. “We are grateful for Jason’s service to the company and wish him all the best in the future.”

Born in China, but educated in the U.S., Luo had spent the last decade in Michigan transforming the Chinese-owned KSS into a major player in the auto safety field. Just two months ago, Key agreed to buy most of the assets of bankrupt Japanese airbag supplier Takata Corp.

(Lincoln is crucial to growing Ford sales in China. Click Here for the story.)

Ford’s December sales slid 9% to 140,103. For the year, sales were down 6% at just under 1.2 million vehicles. However, Lincoln enjoyed strong results with a 66% increase so optimism was high for some more growth.

Fleet added, “Jason offered his resignation for personal reasons that predate his time at Ford. Ford accepted Jason’s resignation as the right way for him and the Company to proceed. Jason’s decision was not related to the business strategy or performance of Ford China, which remains robust, with a bright future ahead. We continue to act in the best interest of our company, employees, and stakeholders.”

Luo’s replacement will be the subject of a future announcement. In the interim, Fleet will assume Luo’s responsibilities as the company works to build its business in China through a robust portfolio of product offerings and better ownership experience.

(Click Here for details about China banning production of 553 models.)

China is also beginning an investment campaign to boost production of electric vehicles under pressure from Beijing to meet official minimum sales targets that take effect in 2020, which reflects Ford’s product plans for the country.

To meet those goals, Ford Motor Co. announced plans last month to roll out at least 15 new electrics in China by 2025. GM previously announced plans to start production of a pure-electric vehicle in China and launch 10 electric or gasoline-electric hybrids by 2020.

Investing billions of dollars in new products and plants, Ford finally had begun to make some major inroads before it hit a snag at the end of 2016. Ford is also looking to expand production of SUVs carrying the flagship Blue Oval brand’s badge, and is searching for additional local partners.

(To see more about Luo’s hiring, Click Here.)

Meanwhile, Ford has created new joint venture with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co., a Chinese company better known for producing automotive and motorcycle parts. Together, the partners would create an entirely new Chinese brand of electric vehicles.

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